I remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. My older, infinitely cooler cousin was visiting and she’d just bought the Nevermindcassette; playing it for me and opening my eyes to a whole new world of not just music but attitude and style. It was an attitude and style I would adopt as my own and continue to sport to this very day.
At the time, I was a country music fanatic. It’s all I listened to. Musicians like Faith Hill, Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire provided the soundtrack to my life. They sang songs about love. They sang songs about appreciating what you have. Their songs told stories. Grunge was a completely different beast. It was angry. It was angst-ridden. It was everything I felt – stuck, isolated, lost – set to music.
I identified with Kurt Cobain in a deeply profound and personal way as a lot of people did. He wore his heart on his sleeve. His art – from his music to his drawings and paintings – was filled with the sort of pain that a lot of people feel but never share. I identified with his struggle as I think a lot of people did. Everyone at one point in time struggles with something. All too often, people forget that it isn’t as easy for some to overcome those struggles as it is for others. It isn’t a lack of strength and it isn’t a lack of effort. Call it different wiring in the brain. Some people sink. Some people swim and some people just float, always caught somewhere between the struggle and the salvation.
As I sat huddled around my little cassette player listening to Nirvana for the first time with my cousin, keeping the volume low so my mother wouldn’t hear, it was like my mind was opening. It was like my ears were hearing something important that would change my life and in a lot of ways, it did. It sounds absolutely ridiculous unless you’ve actually had that, “holy shit, this is life changing stuff” moment first hand. From there, my love of music was born and that’s something that thrives inside me to this day. I have Kurt to thank for that.
Hole. What can you say about Hole? Courtney Love is charismatic, outspoken and brash. She puts everything out there for you to dissect – for you to love or hate. Courtney changed my view of what women could be. Strong, confident, insecure and fragile, Courtney Love is contradiction. Through Courtney, I learned that woman don’t have to be beautiful and model perfect to be someone. You can have flaws. You can have scars. You can be your own person and still gain respect. This is something that never occurred to me with Faith Hill. Regardless of her problems and controversies (and my there have been a lot of controversies), Courtney Love shaped my view of women in the media and helped me map out the kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be.
I remember where I was when I first heard Nirvana and I remember where I was when I learned I would never listen to Nirvana the same way again. When news of Kurt’s death hit the news, I was home sick from school, playing cards on the living room floor in front of the television. They said a body had been discovered in Kurt Cobain’s home but no other details were known. No one questioned whether it was Kurt or not. They just assumed and they were right. Nirvana was done and Kurt Cobain was gone. In the years since, many more from the scene have followed; Layne Staley and Mike Starr of Alice in Chains, Kristen Pfaff of Hole and Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon to name a few. I’ve felt each of those losses like I lost a close personal friend but of all of them, Kurt really hit me the hardest. In all that loss, though, there was always a glimmer or hope – Kurt and Courtney’s daughter, Frances Bean.
Some folks have said Frances Cobain is the face of a generation – the daughter of grunge growing up in front of the world – but that really isn’t fair to the girl. While Nirvana fans remember her as a baby, making her first real public appearance at only a few months old with her parents at the MTV Video Music Awards back in 1993, she wasn’t there because she chose to be there. A life in the public eye isn’t a life she chose as her parents did. She was born into it and whether fair or not, the eyes of a generation are on her. She isn’t the face of a generation. She is the face that makes a generation realize they’re growing older. She’s maturing and with that, we are forced to realize that we are maturing as well.
I have gray hair now – only one or two that I’ve spotted so far, but they’re still there. Soon enough, my natural brown will be the minority on my head and that one gray hair will fit in perfectly with the rest of my mop. I’ll have wrinkles around my eyes. I’ll be old. Am I more mature than I was when I first saw those photos of baby Frances? Nope. Not in the least and there’s nothing wrong with that. I always wanted to make my living writing and that’s exactly what I do. I roll out of bed in the morning around eleven in the morning after having gone to bed around three or four. I survive on coffee and cigarettes. I don’t get dressed for days at a time and I rarely leave the house because people kind of bug me. My best friends know this, understand this and mock this on a regular basis. My life is unconventional and that’s fine. This is a lesson I learned from Frances Bean Cobain.
Frances Bean Cobain is not Courtney Love and she is not Kurt Cobain. She isn’t the second coming of grunge royalty. She’s a gorgeous, talented and independent young woman with nothing but promise ahead of her. A lot of people don’t ‘get’ her art but that’s what art is all about. She wants to be a film director, a photographer or a journalist but isn’t really sure what she’ll do yet. Sounds like a pretty normal nineteen year old girl to me and really, there isn’t a reason she can’t do all of them. She’s been blessed with opportunities a lot of us don’t get but she doesn’t seem to take any of that for granted. She’s a smart, well spoken young woman who seems to understand the fascination with her even if she doesn’t necessarily welcome it. She’s a girl who doesn’t just know who people expect her to be but also seems to have a solid understanding of who she wants to be and there’s no reason she can’t be that person.
Over the years, the world has watched Frances grow up from the baby at the MTV VMAs to the artist proudly displaying her art at her first exhibit (shown above) to the strikingly beautiful young woman posing for two very different sets of photographs. I’d always hoped that one day Frances would be someone. I didn’t care if that someone was a public figure in music or movies or if it was a private citizen practicing medicine or working in law enforcement. My hope was simply that she would grow up to be the best of her mother – strong and confident – and the best of her father – sensitive and open. Above all, I hoped that she would be okay and it definitely seems that she is. Only time will tell how her own story unfolds but one thing is for certain, it will be her story – not her mother’s, not her father’s and not ours.
The galleries below show Frances over the years starting with her public appearances with her mother, to Frances coming into her own as a model and an artist. Click on a gallery to expand it and click on any of the thumbnails to view the full size images. Return to the album to select a new album by hitting the backspace button or clicking ‘back’ on your browser.
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